Her Captured Heart
- 5 months ago
- 66 min read
- 14,403 visitas
“Annie?” the boss called out, disturbing her work at the microscope. Determined to complete her observations, she ignored him until he was forced to cross the lab. His impatience finally pulled her from the eyepiece. Why couldn’t he let her finish her work? Didn’t he realize—
A handsome guy stood next to her, a relative piece of eye candy compared to her overweight, red-faced boss.
“Uh… hello?” she ventured.
“This is Dale,” her boss said snappishly. “He’s here to cover Erica’s desk until she’s ready to come back to work.
“She left to have a baby,” Annie reminded him.
“Yeah, well, we still have work to do.”
“Asshole,” Annie muttered.
“What was that?”
“I said ‘that’s all,’” Annie lied.
“Dale will be working with you on some of Erica’s projects.”
Annie glanced up—straight into Dale’s soft brown eyes. “That’s nice.” Stop it! she chided herself. You already love someone, remember?
“I look forward to it,” Dale said, then smiled.
Annie sighed, then extended a hand. “I’m sure it’ll be fun.”
“Wow, you have warm hands.”
“Oh, boy,” her boss groaned.
“Sorry,” Dale said. “But she really does.”
“Come on,” the boss said sharply. “I’ll show you where the files are kept.”
“Later?” Dale asked Annie.
“Mm-hm.” Annie didn’t trust herself to speak. She watched as Dale walked away, mesmerized by his gait. A jab from an elbow brought her back to reality. Yvette, her colleague was giving her a stern look.
“I thought you were off the market, Miss Wide Eyes?”
“Huh? Oh, don’t mind me.”
“Don’t mind? Your eyes were out on stalks. You were practically licking his hand.”
“I wasn’t… was I? Oh, hell.”
“Yep. Like a girl with a new crush.”
Annie turned back to her microscope. “I… didn’t expect to see him. He was standing right beside me. What does he expect?”
“Yeah. With his strong jaw, and his big brown eyes, and his muscles….”
“You really have it bad, don’t you?”
Annie dropped her head into her hands. “Somebody shoot me, please.”
Yvette patted her back. “You’ll be okay. Once he spots me, he’ll lose interest in you.”
“You really think he might be interested in me?”
“Oh, boy. You need a cold shower.”
“I really do.” She glanced at the rain-streaked window. “Or I might go stand outside.”
“You know…” Yvette leaned closer. “We could double-date. I’ll bring Dale, and you bring Tom. How is he, anyway?”
“Oh… fine.” Annie pressed her eyes to the microscope and tried to ignore Yvette.
“Why do I never see you guys together?”
“He’s… busy. Working on stuff.”
“Maybe he needs to get out more.”
“I wish he could.” Annie sighed. “We both do.”
“Then we should do it, right? How ‘bout Saturday night?”
“Aren’t you forgetting one tiny detail?” Annie asked.
“Am I? What?”
“Uh… Dale. He might not want to.”
Yvette flipped her hair. “He’s not gonna be able to resist me.”
Annie barely glanced at her friend. “I can hardly wait.” Even though her eyes were on the ‘scope, she no longer saw what was on the slide below. Her mind was filled with images of Tom, her lover of ten months, who was trapped by circumstance. Caged by his own conscience, unable to lead anything resembling a normal life. She needed to help him. She had to find a way to undo his desperate plight, to bring him back to the normal world.
If she could.
Despite her confident boast, Yvette completely failed to snag Dale’s interest. Instead, he seemed to spend a great deal of time standing close to Annie. Not in a creepy way. Even Yvette couldn’t find fault with the way he offered help and useful advice to Annie. Their expertise in cellular biology overlapped in a way that was complimentary. Dale suggested techniques Annie had never considered, and her work moved along quickly, inspired by his new approach. Yvette could only sit back and watch with sadness in her eyes as her plan to draw Dale into her arms faded away. She wasn’t jealous. Annie was pretty and blond, whereas Yvette could best be described as plain and mousey. She had become accustomed to guys overlooking her.
“So if you add the sodium compound first…” Dale said softly. “And wait for it to take effect, then feed in the acidic elements one by one…”
“The mutation is diverted,” Annie finished. “The cells stabilize.” She gazed up at him. “I’d never have thought of trying that sequence.”
“Well done, you guys,” Yvette offered, but her attempt to join the party was weak. She had little else to offer.
“Might I ask…?” Dale began. “What you plan to use this for?”
“I…” Damn. Why did he have to ask? Dale knew too much microbiology for her to be able to lie to him. Yvette’s research paralleled Annie’s, but it was unrelated enough that Annie could twist the truth, and invent reasons for her work.
“You don’t want to tell me right away, do you?”
Annie smiled. “Do you mind? It still needs work, but thanks to you, I’m further ahead than I was.”
“It’s okay.” Dale nodded. “You can tell me when you’re ready.”
“I knew you’d understand.” Annie squeezed his hand. Behind her, Yvette groaned. Why does she do that? Annie wondered. Is she jealous? I’m not interested in stealing him. Tom needs me too much. She withdrew her hand and slipped it into a pocket. He’s a really nice guy, though. If only I was single…
Her hand tingled where his skin had touched hers. She tried to ignore the residual feeling, but her thumping heart and racing mind confused her. How could she feel this way when she loved Tom? How could she even think about another man, when he needed her so badly?
Conflicted, she jumped up from her seat and fled to the ladies’ room, where she was able to let her tears flow in private.
“Yvette was the one who suggested it,” Dale said.
“She had no right. Not without asking me first,” Annie snapped.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was such a big issue for you.”
“It’s not an issue,” she replied. “You can go with her if you want.” Her throat dried as she tried to sound matter-of-fact.
Dale leaned closer. “She’s not the one I want to go out with.”
“Please. I c an’t. Don’t ask me to.”
“Because of Tom?”
Annie sighed. “Yvette told you?”
He nodded. “Yvette told me.”
“She had no right.”
“I get the impression that Tom is sick, and that your research might… help him in some way?”
“You don’t miss much, do you?”
“Sorry. I’m trained to observe. Plus I happen to be intensely curious.”
“A formidable combination.” Annie smiled. “I’m outgunned.”
“You never stood a chance.”
“Can this be our little secret?”
“On one condition.”
“That you at least have a drink with me.”
“Oh, Dale. You never give up, do you?”
“I’m persistent to the last.”
“Can this at least wait until another day? I’d like to give Tom some good news.”
“About the new sequence?” Dale raised an eyebrow.
“Maybe. You helped me to take a big step forward today.”
“I’m happy to help.”
Indecision tore at her, but she overcame her doubt, then leaned forward and kissed Dale’s cheek.
“What was that for?”
“For helping. And being a nice guy. But it doesn’t mean we’re dating, or anything, okay?”
He grinned. “Sure. Now, go and see Tom. Cheer him up a little.” Dale pulled open the lab door, but Annie shook her head.
“Not quite yet. I have a few things to finish up. You go on ahead.”
“Okay. See you tomorrow, then?”
“Same time, same place.”
“Night.” She waved as he stepped out, but waited until the door had closed fully before heading back to her workplace. The completed sequence was waiting patiently in the petri dish. She took a hypodermic from a drawer, and drew up the solution until the dish was dry. With the needle safely capped, she slipped the precious syringe into her pocket and headed for the big cat lab, where Tom would be waiting for her. She hoped the other technicians had left for the day.